Why do you have the friends you do?

Author: Barrett Rainey

We have some awfully good neighbors. Their home has lots of curb appeal. The outside greenery is always well-kept. Well-behaved kids – mostly grown and off to college or careers. We chat now and then. They have many friends who visit often. We always get a friendly wave when outside or driving past their home. Really good folks.

Now, let’s consider these questions about our neighbors:

## Are they practicing Protestants, Catholics or agnostics?
## Are they vegetarians?
## Did either or both attend college?
## Are they planning on having more children?
## Do they drive American-made vehicles or foreign?
## Are they married or simply in a long-term relationship?
## Are they gay or straight?

The answers to those questions – rightly or wrongly – help define our neighbors in our society. Some answers even help us chose our friends. That may not be a good way to base our opinions about the value of people. But it’s what many of us do when – in reality – the answers to those questions are none of our damned business. Including the answer to that last one. Especially that last one.

Yet the issue of an individual’s sexuality has become an overriding topic in our national political world. In our lives in general. It consumes miles of newsprint and seemingly endless hours on radio and TV. It should not.

Looking back on a long life, I’ve tried to remember why certain people meant more to me than others – why some relationships developed into lengthy friendships across years and miles – why keeping up with some has been important while losing track of others didn’t get a second thought. In no instance – not one – has sexual preference been important.

I look at people in my life today – most recent acquaintance of church, service clubs or other relationships. Most I respect, would help in an instant and am glad to call them “friend.” But none of that personal attitude hinges on whether each is gay or straight.

Running some small businesses over the years, I’ve valued customers loyalty and their repeat use of our services. Nearly all were long-term customers who kept accounts current and were a joy to work with. Not one comes to mind because of the sex of a life’s partner. Theirs or mine.

I’ve even tried to think of the names of many who’ve crossed my path over the last five or six decades and who’ve faded from my life. Close once but, due to separations caused by relocating, taking a different job or joining a different activity, they slipped away almost unnoticed. None of those relationships ended because of anyone’s sexual orientation. Not one.

All those life circumstances involve literally thousands of people not chosen by – or kept close by – their sexual makeup. All. Not one exception. Why, then, has the issue of homosexuality become such an overriding concern? If we devalue it or ignore it so much in our own lives, why is such attention being paid to it in the media and by certain groups?

I find no basis to make this a religious issue. It’s human rights issue. The structure of a person’s domestic arrangement is a personal decision. Attempts to insert outside opinions – based on religious or any other societal practices – are unwarranted. For people who want less governmental or any other outside influence in their personal lives to attempt to use that same government to intrude in someone else’s private life is pure hypocrisy.

All people in my life have a right to every opinion they express – every vote they cast for whomever – every decision they make regarding how they and their families will live – every faith-based decision – even not to practice any particular faith. I can honor their choices, make my own and still find common cause on which to base a relationship.

We pride ourselves as living in a country where we value our freedoms of every kind. We’ve fought wars for no other reason than to allow people to live free of criticism or oppression by others – freedom from unwanted intrusion in their lives – freedom to worship any God as that God appears to them – freedom to worship no God at all.

Yet we are currently engaged in arguments and heated debate over whether two people – any two people – can live together in whatever societal arrangement they chose. Am I alone in seeing the hypocrisy here?

Our decisions – our values if you will – make us who we are. Most of us are lucky enough to have our own life experiences based almost entirely on the decisions we’ve made for ourselves. And if conditions formed to change our lives, we’re the ones who made new decisions of how to adjust based on those altered conditions. That is to be valued. Greatly!

But your right to make a decision affecting my everyday life, my thinking and my decisions ends about two inches in front of my nose. Past that point, the only one responsible is me. And those I chose – for whatever reason – to include. That is as it should be.

The President’s decision to honor the rights of gays to marry is his decision and his alone. As is Mitt Romney’s or any one else to believe otherwise. No one – presidential or otherwise – has the power to force their thinking on any of us. The choice each made by those two gentlemen should have no bearing on election day. Especially when considering current polling on the subject is split nearly 50-50. And moving rapidly to the acceptance side.

If you look at factors inside that polling – the demographics of who thinks what about gay marriage – you’ll find folks under 40 much more supportive than folks over 60. What that says to me is this subject will become more of a non-issue in years to come as the “againers” die off and the “approvers” age. And that’s good. To more than half of us, it’s irrelevant in our daily lives already.

Of course, that’s going to force some folks to change – to evolve – to come to new decisions based on that new environment. If that lessens suspicions, division and hatred, that’s all good, too.

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